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Morningside acquires Woodbury County farm for agricultural studies

 Thomas Paulsen, the department head of the Regina Roth Applied Agricultural and Food Studies at Morningside University, directs students. The department has acquired a new piece of land to assist in experiential learning.
Courtesy of Morningside University
Thomas Paulsen, the department head of the Regina Roth Applied Agricultural and Food Studies at Morningside University, directs students. The department has acquired a new piece of land to assist in experiential learning.

Morningside University students will now be able to take their studies outside of the classroom and onto a farm.

The western Iowa university purchased more than 70 acres of land from Woodbury County. The Sioux City farm will be used to expand agricultural opportunities for the college’s ag program.

Regina Roth Applied Agricultural and Food Studies department head Tom Paulsen said the land will give students the opportunity to experience farm management firsthand. Students can learn lessons like crop-scouting or hybrid analysis by interacting directly with the land, rather than with a textbook, he said.

“A lot of our students go back to family farming operations,” Paulsen said. “Having the opportunity to work in the agronomy sector, the crop production sector, as well as all the other opportunities we have for them is going to be critical for their future success.”

Morningside farm map
Morningside University purchased more than 70 acres of the 211 acre Woodbury County farm. This map highlights the college's newest addition to its ag program.
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Morningside University purchased more than 70 acres of the 211 acre Woodbury County farm. This map highlights the college's newest addition to its ag program.

The university bought the land from Woodbury County, who has owned the farm for a century. In the late 19th century, the farm was available for those in need to grow crops. In more recent times, the farm has been rented out.

Morningside purchased only 73 acres of the 211 acres of land for around $1.2 million. Woodbury County got more than $3 million dollars for the entire farm – all of which will go into cash reserves to lower the property tax rate for fiscal year 2024.

 Morningside representatives sit at the Woodbury County farm auction on Tuesday. They were the highest bidders, purchasing the land for $1.3 million.
Courtesy of Morningside University
Morningside representatives sit at the Woodbury County farm auction on Tuesday. They were the highest bidders, purchasing the land for $1.3 million.

Paulsen said he hopes the latest addition to the college can help expand the department’s offerings. Currently, the department offers a greenhouse and local garden for its 75 students. Paulsen said the land opens up the possibility of having students fully operating a farm on a daily basis.

“When the students have the opportunity to be engaged and to actually manage something themselves and make decisions that are meaningful, not just theoretical, it's a whole different aspect to the quality of their educational experience,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen said the school had been actively looking for the opportunity to purchase land for agriculture students since its start in 2015. He said location was the department’s highest priority. The county farm sits just five miles down the road from the university.

Students could start using the land as early as next year, Paulsen said.